The following are the unedited responses from Claudette R. Smith, candidate for Amarillo mayor. Smith is facing incumbent Ginger Nelson and challenger Kip Billups in the May 4th general election.
What is your educational background? Please list any degrees earned, and institutions attended. You may also list any professional certifications.
Randall High School 2000 - 2004 AC 2006 - 2008 WTAMU 2011 - 2016 Texas Open Meetings Act Certified
What is your occupation?
What is your age?
How many years have you lived in Amarillo?
Would you support raising taxes to pay for basic infrastructure improvements? Why or why not?
No. We should balance the budget and fund priorities without raising taxes. Government should live within its means, just like people do. We should take as little as necessary from taxpayers, because they can spend their money far better than politicians and bureaucrats.
Do you support repairing or rebuilding the Thompson Park pool, and if so, how do you plan to pay for the project? If not, why?
Yes. Without diving into any of the budget numbers or details, my observation is that our current council has been spending a large portion of the general fund on items that are not the role of city government. I feel this is taking away from funding priorities.
One of my main objectives is to reduce waste by scrutinizing the budget and not spending money on items that are not the role of city government. In doing so, this will allow more of the budget to fund projects like the Thompson Park Pool, without raising our taxes.
Do you support the current City Council's decision to change the regular meeting times to 1PM? If so, why? If not, what would be a better time to hold the meetings?
No. I feel 1:00 PM is an inconvenient time for council meetings. Council meetings are a crucial time when city business is conducted and thus, should be at a time that a majority of the citizens are available to attend and participate.
I feel a convenient time would be during non-business hours, around 6:00 PM. Ultimately, I would like to receive feedback from citizens and to allow them decide what time works best for the majority who wish to attend and participate.
Do you believe current petitioning requirements are too strict for citizens looking to place an item on the ballot? If so, what would be a better threshold?
I do believe the current requirements are too stringent and am open to hearing all feedback as to what a fair threshold would consist of and to considering implementation of changes of the current requirements.
Do you believe more City Council oversight is needed for municipal departments? Why or why not? *
Yes, to ensure accountability throughout the entire municipal government.
What should the future be for the Civic Center complex?
Although I am in favor of building a new Civic Center complex, I strongly believe the decision should ultimately be for the taxpayers to make. After all, it is taxpayer dollars that will fund any project in relation to the Civic Center complex.
Since 2017, major musical acts like Garth Brooks, Blake Shelton, Metallica, Thomas Rhett, and Chris Young have played concerts in Lubbock. Meanwhile, multiple artists have passed Amarillo to perform at venues in other cities. How can Amarillo attract major concerts, such as these, as well as conventions, and other major events?
I believe a new Civic Center Complex that is comparable to Lubbock's or better, will do justice in attracting major artists, concerts, conventions and events in Amarillo.
In 2017, the Amarillo City Council voted to increase fees for citizens seeking to obtain public information. Would you have supported this vote? If you were a member of the Council at the time of the vote, how did you vote on this item and why?
No, I would not have supported this fee increase. In fact, I spoke out against this proposed fee increase the day it was voted on at the City Council meeting. I would have voted against this increase because I am a strong believer in open government, transparency and accountability.
Taxpayers have a right to know how and where every penny of their tax dollars are spent, therefore we must provide this information upon request, without obstacles.
Would you support moving Amarillo's City Council election dates to November of even-numbered years? Please explain.
Yes. I believe November is a more convenient time to conduct an election and historically results with a higher voter turn out.
The Amarillo City Council made national headlines in 2018, when a citizen was arrested after clapping in a public meeting. What are your thoughts on this incident, and do you believe the ensuing events were an overreach of the City Council's authority?
I was in attendance at the council meeting when this incident occurred. I believe the citizen was wrongfully arrested, as there are no laws or rules of decorum that prohibit clapping at a public meeting. I disagree with the charges ensued against the citizen - "disrupting a meeting". The incident occurred during public comment forum and not during commencement of city business. I feel this was an overreach of the Mayor and City Council's authority and a decision that was made in the heat of the moment, out of sheer anger.
How would you ensure all citizens have an equal chance to serve on a municipal board, regardless of their political connections?
We should assure that all members of the community are ensured access to full participation in the life of our municipality, including equal opportunity and nondiscrimination of appointed boards and commissions.
To accomplish this, an ordinance can be passed stating the policy to require nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in appointments to boards, as well as require the listing of all municipal boards and commissions to which appointments are made and the assignment of coordination and oversight responsibility to a particular municipal official or agency to ensure compliance.
Would you support establishing a "no-kill" animal shelter in Amarillo? Why or why not?
I am in support of a no kill animal shelter in Amarillo. I feel there needs to be some clarification as to what a no kill shelter is. A no kill shelter is simply an animal shelter that maintains a %90 live release rate. While some will inquire about the cost, the reality is, we do not need a "new shelter", all we need is a new attitude and oversight at Animal Welfare Management. These are common sense solutions that have been overlooked by our leadership for far too long.
Do you support the City of Amarillo's curbside cart program? Why or why not?
No. I believe the city wide replacement of dumpsters with small trash carts is inefficient and impractical in the windy city of Amarillo Texas. The program was forcefully implemented without input from the citizens and at a large expense to the taxpayers.
After receiving feedback from the community, I feel this program is largely disliked. I believe the only citizens who will benefit from this program are the small portion who currently have curb side trash service and no dumpsters.
What should the City of Amarillo's role be in preventing homelessness in Amarillo? How do you plan to implement that role?
We have tent encampments all over the city. This is not only an issue of urban blight, but is also a health and safety issue. This also does not reflect well on us when those outside the city come to visit. But did you know, an estimated 20% of these homeless people are veterans? That is heart wrenching. People are more than eyesores. We have to do much better.
As mayor, I plan to implement a comprehensive plan to dramatically reduce homelessness in Amarillo, which will address all the issues that come with this problem. I will work with employers, entrepreneurs, employees and foundations to reduce homelessness, hunger and poverty in Amarillo.
Within our diverse population, Amarillo has some of the most generous and kind people there are in all of the U.S.. We can be compassionate and efficient, but firm.
The City Council recently voted to purchase a warehouse on Johnson Street for storage of Civic Center items. The purchase attracted controversy due to an alleged conflict of interest in the deal. Do you believe this purchase was a wise investment by the City of Amarillo? Please explain.
I do not feel this was a wise investment. On the date of purchase, the Potter Randall County Appraisal District valued this property at approximately $143,000.00. The property was purchased by the city for $700, 000.00. That is quite a big gap, with zero explanation.
The city purported the use of the property as overflow storage space for tables and chairs from the civic center. The agenda also stated that the property would be used in the future for some other purpose in downtown development.
After reviewing the downtown revitalization plan and diagram module, I have a strong belief that the property was planned to be purchased long ago, for use to construct another parking garage.
Would you support reforming the Amarillo municipal court?
I would need more information to effectively answer this question.
In what cases would you support the issue of certificates of obligation to incur debt for municipal projects? Please explain.
Although I am a strong believer in not spending our tax dollars on items that are not the role of city government, in the event it is absolutely necessary and provided the taxpayers approve of such project, I would be open to entertaining it.
Should any future municipally owned parking garages be constructed in the vicinity of City Hall and the Civic Center? Why or why not?
No. Constructing an additional parking garage downtown and implementing parking meters will only serve to solve a problem that does not exist. Downtown parking is not a problem at this time, nor do we know if it will ever become a problem. This is a prime example of getting the cart before the horse.
How would you ensure public meetings allow maximum public engagement? Please explain.
I am ready to lead on day one, beginning with implementing changes to public comment forum and creating an open door, open communication policy, in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the citizens and their elected officials, as that line of communication is so vital.
High on my priority list is revamping city council meeting policies, procedures and rules of "decorum" entirely. Also on this list, is allotting more time per speaker, to allow each citizen enough time to effectively relay their message.
I also plan to implement a change in the council meeting time, to allow more citizens to attend and engage in our city business.
In your view, if a tax bill for a single piece of property increases from the previous year, while the tax rate remains the same, does this constitute a tax increase? Please explain.
Yes! At the end of the day, your overall tax bill is what you write the check for. If the overall bill increases, your taxes have increased, regardless of explanations and fancy political jargon.
In 2017, the City Council discussed cutting budgets for three libraries in Amarillo, while leaving the budget intact for the Downtown Library and the Southwest Library. Would you support cutting the budget for the local library system to allocate those funds for other projects? Please explain.
No. Libraries are important cornerstones of a healthy community. Libraries give people the opportunity to find jobs, explore medical research, experience new ideas, get lost in wonderful stories, while at the same time providing a sense of place for gathering.
Libraries are often the only readily available source of comprehensive information needed by people for personal, family and job-related purposes. Our community's economy benefits when business people use library resources to make wise business decisions, employees use it to improve job skills, or the disadvantaged use it to help break the cycle of poverty. During economic hardship, our citizens turn to and depend on the library.
Our library is a unique and valuable resource. For some, it is a lifeline to the world and all the information in it.
In 2018, the Amarillo City Council voted to add more red light cameras to Amarillo streets. At a time when Governor Abbott is pledging to ban the use of the cameras in the state, do you believe this contract was a wise investment? Why or why not?
No, I do not believe this contract was a wise investment, as red light cameras will likely be banned during this legislative session.
Do you believe the City of Amarillo has neglected certain areas of Amarillo? Please explain.
Yes. When I was a kid, there was nothing going on downtown, and then I was working downtown when the revitalization really got going, and we're all proud of that. But it can't just be downtown and it can't just be the big stuff. Sometimes it's just about having a park near your home, or keeping the swimming pool in your neighborhood open.
I feel there has been entirely too much focus and funds spent downtown. We need to reorganize, prioritize, and shift some of that focus to the under served areas of our city.
How would you propose attracting new business to Amarillo, if elected?
It's not always about recruiting companies to move here or cultivating fortune 500 ideas. If you, or anyone else in this city, want to start a small business on your side of town or anywhere else in the city and employ a couple of people, we ought to have your back.
Now, that doesn't mean a hand out, more like a hand up. There are many ways to incentivize bringing businesses to Amarillo without waiving taxes and giving out corporate welfare. I believe growing our city is important, just not at the expense or burden of the taxpayers.
Would you support the establishment of single-member districts for Amarillo City Council elections? Please explain.
Yes. I support the establishment of single-member districts because it provides voters with strong constituency representation because each voter has a single, easily identifiable, district representative. I feel it maximizes accountability because a single representative can be held responsible and can be re-elected or defeated in the next election, and it ensures geographic representation.
In 2017, several current members of the Amarillo City Council promised to increase civility and "change the tone" at City Hall. Do you believe City Council meetings are more civil today than prior to this City Council's time in office? Please explain.
I feel the current city council most definitely changed the tone at city hall; to that of deaf/mute, by silencing the citizens and causing chaos and controversy weekly by attacking citizens during public comment forum, citing opposing views as personal attacks and by using our own tax dollars to fight us when challenged in court for violating the law.
What letter grade would you give the Amarillo City Council for its job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
F. I have attended council meetings weekly for the past year, where I have fought hard for resolution to many important and ongoing issues in our city. For months I have witnessed numerous issues brought to the council's attention, be met with resistance, left unresolved or outright ignored.
In our last election, citizens of Amarillo voted for a platform that promised transparency and accountability, but the reality is, this current mayor and council have been anything but transparent. Now more than ever, corruption, cronyism, nepotism and pay to play schemes are unfolding rampantly at city hall.
In the past year alone, I have witnessed numerous backroom deals conducted, contracts awarded, zoning changes approved, grants and AEDC money given to numerous campaign donors of this current mayor and council.
Hundreds of open record requests were denied to Amarillo citizens this past year. This is unacceptable. Elected officials work FOR the people, not the other way around.
What letter grade would you give city manager Jared Miller for his job performance over the past two years? Please explain.
F. Since hired, the city manager has accepted zero accountability. In my opinion, his performance has been less than stellar and his compensation is higher than the Vice President of the United States, with little to no improvements in our city to show for it.
Are you supported by Amarillo Matters or any other special interest groups?
No. Morals Matter.
Why should voters choose you on election day?
I am the change we need and the voice we deserve. I have already been taking action and getting results for ALL citizens, for the past year. I am a strong, true fiscal conservative, who will not raise taxes on Amarillo residents.
As a longtime resident, small business owner and activist in our city, I am committed to making Amarillo affordable, healthy, safe and prosperous for ALL citizens.
I feel I will bring a new, informed and collaborative voice to city hall from my years of living, working, and volunteering in our city.